“It’s storytelling, but not as we know it; thankfully it comes in peace.” Deborah Stratman’s ‘Last Things’ is an epic, but gentle experience.
📍 The Maltings, Berwick
📅 4 March 2023
🕖 Running time: 50 minutes
📅 Release: 2023
🎬 Director: Deborah Stratman
🎭 Wheelchair Accessible Venue, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Hearing Induction Loop
Multi award-winning Chicago-based Deborah Stratman’s ‘Last Things’ received a warm reception at this year’s Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival. A love-song to Geology and Mineral Science, the film harnesses the powers of science fact & fiction to explore ideas of time, extinction, and evolution. A palimpsest of visions of sounds, Last Things layers footage shot on location & through microscope with science communication from Geologist Marcia Bjornerud, and snippets of science reflection and imagination narrated by Valérie Massadian.
The story plucked from philosophical theses such as Roger Caillois L’Ecriture des Pierres, and the tales of Science Fiction titan J.-H. Rosny aîné, is one of humanity’s end, the persistence of life, and the permanence of rock. These three strands are woven together in a mesmeric journey, the audience invited into the immediacy of a human crisis, viewed from the millennia-spanning viewpoint of the crystallised world.
The last ingredient to Last Things’ spell is a soundscape stitching evocative material from creators including Thomas Ankersmit and Brian Eno. Indeed, there are so many components, that its a testament to Stratman’s skill, and feel, that this 50 minute film never feels busy or over-done. It’s certainly experimental, but less challenging than mind-expanding, leaving the audience oddly soothed despite the post and pre-humanity contemplations.
Perhaps there’s a relief in considering existence from outside the human experience, a departure from the domestic grind, and an immersion in far grander storyscapes.
There’s a lot to unpack in Last Things, an experience which rewards the reflective viewer who leaves the cinema inspired to explore its rich assemblage of discovery and creation. It certainly passes the first test put to all cinema, in being a captivating visual experience. From the microscopic lives of protozoan Volvox, to the custodians of Petra’s rocky temples, there’s always something, or someone to catch and keep the eye. Not every image is immediately decipherable, but this only adds to a sense of mystery, and of trying to capture the ineffable.
Last Things certainly belongs in a cinema, where its grand scale is matched by screen and sound-system, and should the chance to see it present, I suggest you do so. It’s storytelling, but not as we know it; thankfully it comes in peace.